Witnesses

Laura Forrest

Laura Forrest

  • Social worker with CFS Winnipeg
  • Was assigned to look into Phoenix Sinclair's well-being in February 2003
  • Tried multiple times to make contact with Steve & Phoenix Sinclair
Nikki Humenchuk

Nikki Humenchuk

  • Former supervisor of Boys & Girls Club
  • Advocate for Steve Sinclair & Samantha Kematch, 2000-2001

A sad list

Wednesday, November 21

It was just a handwritten little list that was entered into evidence at the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry today, but it packed an emotional punch:

- One pair of pink panties, washed and hung to dry.
- One blue and white T-shirt.
- One pair of denim jeans.
- One blue white T-shirt with shorts.
- One pair white sandals.
 
These were the only items three-year-old Phoenix had to her name on the night she was apprehended by child and family services (CFS) workers in 2003.

We don't yet know the circumstances of her apprehension. Perhaps she had more clothes and there just wasn't time to pack them when the workers came for her -- today at the inquiry, we heard that's often the case.

Either way, it's a sad list that somehow makes the little girl seem smaller and more vulnerable.
 
Phoenix Sinclair had been off CFS Winnipeg's radar since October 2001, when the agency  closed her file. At that point, Steve Sinclair, the girl's biological father, became her primary caregiver.

But in February 2003, someone identifying himself only as a "godfather" took Phoenix to a local emergency room. There, doctors removed a pus-filled and foul-smelling object from inside her nose.

Whatever it was was, it was believed to have been lodged in her nose for about three months. The tissue was inflamed and Phoenix was prescribed antibiotics, although there were concerns those drugs would not actually be given to her.

Enter social worker Laura Forrest. The moment she was asked to check in on Phoenix Sinclair's well-being, she went to Steve Sinclair's home on Magnus Avenue.

But from the outset, Steve Sinclair wanted nothing to do with CFS Winnipeg. When Forrest explained why she was there, Sinclair replied, "We'll see about that."

The inquiry has already heard that Steve Sinclair was deeply suspicious of the agency from his own time in care. Forrest tried to meet with Sinclair and Phoenix five times in a three-month period, but both were not home every time. In her testimony today, Forrest admitted that she suspected Sinclair was avoiding her.

In June 2003, Phoenix was apprehended anyway. Those details are expected to come out tomorrow in greater detail.

What the inquiry heard today was that Sinclair -- who, on paper, was Phoenix's primary caregiver -- was heavily into drugs and alcohol. He was hanging out with members of the Indian Posse street gang and may have attempted to commit suicide.

Even Sinclair's own sister suggested he had a lazy attitude toward parenting his daughter and only looked after Phoenix three or four days a month, the inquiry heard.

The night Phoenix was apprehended, CFS Winnipeg checked her into a temporary care suite at the Place Louis Riel hotel. Notes from that night indicate Phoenix had a bath --  which she enjoyed -- and she drank two glasses of milk and ate granola bars.

Phoenix was well-behaved and excited that there was also a baby in care that same night.  Other case notes from that time suggest how hungry Phoenix was for a mother calling every woman she encountered "Mom."

Inside the inquiry

With CBC's Katie Nicholson where an inquiry is trying to figure out how a little girl fell through the cracks.

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